DO you ever enter competitions? I don't, after all, do people really ever win them? writes Camilla Chafer.
A few weeks ago I spotted a competition being run by the Danish Tourist Board looking for 'guinea pig' families to explore Denmark and then report back on how they've found the country. I'd fancied visiting Denmark for a while so I thought why not have a go… and thought nothing more of it until I received a phone call to say I'd won a week for my family in East Denmark! I was at once thrilled and floored!
Like most of us British folk, the thing that first sprung to mind about Denmark was Vikings… then Lego. That was swiftly followed by Copenhagen, Danepak bacon, a lovely homewares brand called Rice and, something most Brits won't have heard of but will no doubt recognise the feeling of, is a rather beautiful Danish concept 'hygge', the closest translation of which, as I understand it, is familiarity, loveliness, cosiness, beauty and warmth. Nice, hmmn? I was certainly eager to see what other exciting things Denmark held for us, find out whether the summerhouse we'd be staying in embodied hygge and quite what a Danish beach holiday might be like.
I'll be blogging our trip for Have A Lovely Time over the next few days and I hope you'll come back to read what we've been up to and what we've discovered about our Danish neighbours.
Day 1: We were invited to try out a sail/drive holiday which meant catching a DFDS ferry from Harwich which would transport us and our car across to Esjberg in Jutland (West Denmark) overnight. The port was very well set out and despite my fretting about checking in a car, three children and two adults, I needn't have worried. It was super smooth. We literally drove in to the port yard and into lanes were we all waited in the car until our lane was signalled through and our passports checked before crawling in a single lane on to the Dana Sirena.
If you are planning a trip on a ferry through Harwich, there's a Morrisons petrol station and shop immediately to the right of the gates where you can stock up on fuel and provisions for the journey. Now, I say provisions because dining on ship is incredibly expensive. It was in fact, the most expensive meal we've ever had as a family and you're pretty stuck with it. Our buffet meal for two adults and two children who barely ate and our infant who went free totalled a whopping £98. But it was either that or go hungry which wasn't an option. Similarly breakfast would have been an expensive affair had we not taken some snacks.
The journey itself was smooth. We were booked into an inside cabin with four berths and an ensuite that was neat and comfortable. On board entertainment was sparse. There was a small play area for children next door to the shop. A children's entertainer did his best in the cafe seating area.
A small box of toys would not have gone amiss in the cabin but we were somewhat prepared to avoid cabin fever by packing some colouring things, new books and various things to entertain them. Gabriel, at 23 months, found the rattling wine bottles in the shop far more exciting than anything else. Naturally you could go on deck too and try to spot sea creatures (unsuccessful on this occasion). The drive and overnight sail was very long haul for the younger children and there were some frayed nerves.
We arrived in Denmark at midday ready for a three- hour drive over to Faxe Ladeplads where we were to stay in a Novasol summerhouse.
The drive was smooth, traffic light and the scenery quite beautiful, especially as we passed over several bridges (note that the bridge from Funen to Zealand costs 25Kr each way and can be paid by card). We picked up our keys, left in a keybox at a small summerhouse site a few miles away and proceeded over to the small seaside town of Faxe Ladeplads. We'd been told it was a beach resort but I think that was a little optimistic. The road to our summerhouse did run by the Baltic Sea (which was very azure, see pic right, though did have somewhat of a nautical aroma!) but no particular beach to speak of. However, the location was ideally situated for reach of Copenhagen in the north and exploring the picturesque islands of Lolland and Mon in the south.
Now for the summerhouse. Situated in a cluster of holiday cottages and in a corner plot, the red log single-storey building was deceptively large. A small garden with children's swing and climbing frame was most welcome as was the large decked area out front. Inside there was a small well-eqipped kitchen, WC, two twin bedrooms, a slightly large double/twin, a large bathroom with spa bath, walk in shower and sauna, a dining area and louge plus a half attic with two extra sleeping places. All the wood was pale with floor to ceiling windows that really enhanced the feeling of light and space and just the right amount of furniture to be comfortable rather than crowded. Homely touches were felt in the silk flowers dotted around and the prints in each room.
I hope you'll click on the video I shot (above) of the summerhouse and take a look round too to see what sort of accomodation you might expect from Novasol - and meet my family too.
We would have appreciated the option of ordering a paid-for welcome basket for essentials such as that night's dinner, cereal, milk etc as we had arrived quite late but fortunately we'd had the foresight to pack some dried goods – things like that are really important to out-of-country guests, I feel.
As for some thoughts about the country, well, we felt it was incredibly well ordered. Driving was a breeze, even when we headed into Copenhagen. We did not see a speck of litter anywhere. We had been assured by a Danish friend that the language would be no problem and she was right – almost everyone spoke English. And I mean everyone. It's a shame we don't have a similar standard of language training in the UK. People were friendly but we also approached people in a friendly manner, smiling and mindful to always say 'tak' (thank you). And at the places we visited, there were always English pamphlets and written guides. You might find it an odd observation that we found Denmark very flat but it certainly accounted for the amount of bikes we saw (and spotted many flats in Copenhagen with bike racks which we thought a lovely touch and also felt saddened that there isn't a similar attitude in the UK).
Was Denmark family friendly? It certainly was! We had no problem with getting children's menus in restaurants (even when avoiding familiar western chains), highchairs and the occasional basket of toys. Toilets were plentiful, clean and free (always useful when travelling with little ones). We spotted children's play areas at many service stations too. A common preconception is that Denmark is cold and we're happy to say it was really, really warm! And we were wowed by the photos of popular Danish beach resorts which look great for families seeking sun and surf (Marielyst in Falster and Gilleleje, north of Copenhagen being two such resorts).
Denmark sadly doesn't feature for many Britons when thinking of holidays but we'd urge you to think again! It's family friendly, the food is good, the scenery pretty, there's tons and tons to do and see, English is widely spoken and the weather was great. We certainly felt very welcome.
Keep reading over the next couple of days as I tell you about what we did including a visit to a Viking museum with real Viking ships, our great day out riding rollercoasters at Tivoli Gardens, seeing tigers on safari on one of the most Southern islands and scaling the breathtaking Mons Klint not to mention afternoon tea in the pretty town of Ribe.
I also want to take the time to say a huge thank you to the Danish tourist board for hosting us. We had a wonderful time, experiencing so many varied and interesting things and are already planning a trip back as there is so much more we want to see!
Images: Camilla Chafer (please click images to make larger)